Powderhorn Ranch Becomes Texas’ Newest Wildlife Management Area

Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation Transfers Acclaimed Conservation Land

Powderhorn Ranch
Photo: Courtesy Of Texas Parks And Wildlife Department

AUSTIN – Over 15,000 acres of the Powderhorn Ranch along the Texas coast in Calhoun County, prime unspoiled coastal prairie, is now a state wildlife management area. The newest crown jewel in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) system is the result of a unique conservation land acquisition coalition led by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF).

The just-completed transfer of the property to the department is the culmination of a multi-year, $37.7 million land acquisition deal. Safeguarding this natural treasure has been contemplated for more than 30 years by several conservation organizations and wildlife agencies including The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), and TPWD.

These organizations played a critical role in the acquisition and long-term conservation of this property. TPWF spearheaded the fundraising for the $50 million project, which includes the purchase of the property, habitat restoration and management, as well as a long-term endowment.

A significant portion of the funding for the project has been provided by NFWF’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, which was created with dollars paid by BP and Transocean in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. NFWF has provided $34.5 million for the project, making this the biggest land acquisition in the nation so far using BP spill restoration dollars.

“The department is privileged to be the steward of this unique and ecologically significant piece of the Texas Coast that the conservation community has worked so hard to protect,” said Clayton Wolf, TPWD Wildlife Division Director. “We look forward to managing these valuable natural resources for current and future generations of Texans to enjoy.”

Management activities on the Powderhorn WMA are already under way with the first public deer hunt scheduled this week. Although public access to the property will be limited as operations and infrastructure gear up, the area is anticipating offering opportunities for low impact activities like guided group birding tours as early as spring 2019.

“Our primary management objectives right now focus on the restoration of native grassland and savannah, and for improving existing hydrology to enhance freshwater wetlands habitat for wildlife, particularly whooping cranes that have expanded onto the property,” said Dan Walker, area manager at Powderhorn WMA. “We’ve already made progress toward returning the land to grassland prairie, clearing dense brush on about 4,000 acres. This restoration effort will be very valuable for research and as a demonstration area for landowners in coastal counties from Matagorda to Willacy.”

The remaining acreage at Powderhorn Ranch is earmarked as the future site of a state park. Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation will complete additional infrastructure and habitat improvement projects for the transfer to the State Parks division within the next five years.

The larger acreage transfer marks a major milestone in the multimillion-dollar project. TPWF has now completed several of the goals it set out as part of this collaboration with multiple conservation partners, including completing initial work to restore thousands of acres of native coastal prairie, raising an endowment for continued habitat management, and placing a conservation easement on the property.

“With the transfer to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department of approximately 15,000 acres of Powderhorn Ranch, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is fulfilling a promise to our partners and to the people of Texas to restore, conserve and provide recreational access to one of the largest remaining tracts of undisturbed native habitat on the Texas coast,” said TPWF Executive Director Anne Brown.



***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****

Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

Powderhorn Ranch

Whooping Crane Partnership for Increasing Public Awareness in Texas

by Lee Ann Linam, Texas Representative, Friends of the Wild Whoopers

Lee Ann Johnson Linam, Texas Representative,  Whooping Crane Partnership
Lee Ann Johnson Linam, Texas Representative, Friends of the Wild Whoopers

On May 26, 2015, I represented Friends of the Wild Whoopers (FOTWW) at the Whooping Crane Partnership meeting held at Texas Parks and Wildlife headquarters in Austin.  Approximately 15 people representing Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Audubon Texas, Ducks Unlimited, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Friends of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, and the International Crane Foundation (ICF) were also in attendance.

This partnership was launched during the past year in response to discovery of a Whooping Crane carcass near a hunting blind in coastal Texas.  Although that circumstance is still under investigation, the Executive Director of TPWD contacted Audubon Texas and asked that organization to spearhead a collaborative effort to increase public awareness about Whooping Cranes.  This will serve as a follow-up to an outreach campaign that TPWD implemented in 2013 following shooting deaths of two Whooping Cranes in Texas in 2012-13.  The partnership met once in February of this year to discuss initial ideas.

The goals of the partnership are to:

  • Develop a stronger understanding of the education/outreach needs regarding the wintering Whooping Crane population in Texas
  • Identify our greatest opportunities to achieve scalable conservation outcomes
  • Develop and coordinate priorities for winter 2015 and 2016
  • Improve our ability to leverage the capacity of the participating state, federal and NGO’s to support the work
  • Develop a common approach to how we deploy initiatives

Several strategies were discussed at the meeting.  A few, such as special mailings to Texas waterfowl and Sandhill Crane hunters, were identified as too expensive ; however, the group has begun to make progress on other ideas, including:

  • TPWD Law Enforcement staff will place an announcement in the Fall 2015 Hunt Texas newsletter which goes out to subscribing sportsmen in Texas.
  • TPWD Migratory Program staff will work to ensure that Whooping Crane identification information, along with an emphasis on the stiff penalties for violations, will continue to be featured in the Department’s annual hunting season publication, the Outdoor Annual.
  • ICF and FOTWW representatives will contact hunting lodges reached in 2013 to see if they need additional posters or flyers depicting Whooping Crane identification.
  • ICF and FOTWW will follow up on the 2013 project to place identification signs at boat launches to see if signs need to be installed or replaced.
  • ICF will form an ad-hoc committee to design billboards to be placed in the Coastal Bend region of Texas to help citizens and hunters be more aware of the presence of Whooping Cranes. FOTWW will provide representation to the committee and funding matches for billboards.
  • Audubon and Wade Harrell, FWS Whooping Crane Coordinator, will contact the FWS Migratory Bird program to see if information on Whooping Crane identification can be included in federal duck stamps that are mailed to hunters.  TPWD staff will also present the issue at the Central Flyway meeting.
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    ***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
    population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****
    Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.


Rewards Offered For Information on Death of Whooping Crane in Aransas County, TX

by Friends of the Wild Whoopers

Friends of the Wild Whoopers (FOTWW) will pay a reward not to exceed $10,000 to anyone who provides information which leads to the arrest and conviction of any individuals who are responsible for the death of a Whooping Crane believed to have occurred during December 2014 in Aransas County, Texas. The partially decomposed body of the Whooping Crane was recovered by Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPDW) game wardens in Aransas County, Texas on Sunday, January 4, 2015. The dead crane was found near a duck blind located in the Aransas Bay system close to Sand Lake. A local hunting guide originally discovered the crane and contacted Game Wardens.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department areWhooper-single-wadeing-hr_076-021-300x215 continuing to seek information about the dead whooping crane.

The Service is also offering a reward in the amount of $2,500 and TPWD is contributing $1,000 for information about the death of the crane. According to the Service, several other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), are also offering up reward money for this effort.

The reward will be issued if the death of the whooping crane is determined to be a criminal act and the information provided leads to the criminal conviction of the person(s) responsible.

Necropsy results show that the whooping crane may have been handled after death.

Anyone with information about the whooping crane’s death is urged to come forward. Information can be provided to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Houston Office of Law Enforcement at (281) 876-1520, or Operation Game Thief at 1-800-792-GAME (4263). Callers may remain anonymous.

Whooping cranes are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  Penalties for harming or killing a crane can range up to a $100,000 fine and/or one year in federal prison.

Whooping cranes almost became extinct with only 16 remaining in the 1940s. Through concerted recovery efforts there are now an estimated 304 cranes in the population that winters in Texas. Standing about 5 feet tall, the whooping crane is the tallest flying bird in North America.

The purpose of the $10,000 reward is to encourage the public to share information they might have about criminal activities involving Whooping Cranes. Federal, State, Provincial, and other public law enforcement personnel, and criminal accomplices who turn “states” evidence to avoid prosecution, shall not be eligible for this reward. If more than one informant is key to solving a specific case, the reward will be equally divided between the informants.

Friends of the Wild Whoopers will continue to provide rewards for killing of whooping cranes in the Aransas/Wood Buffalo flock in accordance with the goals in our mission statement. We invite individuals and other conservation organizations to join with us to establish a reward fund. All donor participants will be acknowledged unless they request to be anonymous. Unfortunately FOTWW’s bank account is very limited and we ask you to do your part.

Please contribute to our “Reward Fund” today by donating or joining  Friends of the Wild Whoopers. Click here.

You may also click on the “Donate” button below..

 ***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****
Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

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